Thrive helps women make steps forward on Teesside

Our Thrive project in Stockton-on-Tees has made significant progress in improving women's lives locally.

Over the past year, Thrive has been funded by Oxfam to deliver a project called 'Steps Forward for Women', aiming to improve women’s lives in the Teesside area by making employment and training support services work for women. This has been achieved by adopting a Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA).

Women who have received support from this project via referrals from the local Job Centre, work programme or GP referral system have been unemployed and have faced a range of barriers to getting back into work. These barriers have been either personal in nature, such as a lack of skills/confidence and caring responsibilities, or due to external factors such as a lack of suitable jobs, limited and costly childcare provision and/or poor local transport services.

Using an SLA, the project has supported unemployed women living in poverty to improve their livelihoods and make steps towards increasing their wellbeing, with the potential of re-entering the labour market if they would like to do so.

The SLA has focused not only on employment but a person’s whole experience and assets. It has helped identify positive areas in a person’s livelihood, enabling women to adopt strategies  to make positive changes / steps forward, thus improving their livelihoods.

Women who have been referred to the project have noted: improved confidence and self-esteem; a developed ability to reflect upon their own strengths and capabilities; and improved awareness of information and choices to make more informed decisions about improving livelihoods.

The continued success of this project is dependent upon:

  1. Maintaining  relationships with the Job Centre Plus, work programme providers and GP referral organisations so that they continue to refer women to this project.
  2. Agreeing ways to raise awareness of the aims and added value the project can offer partners and providers.
  3. Continuing to ensure a client base for this project through appropriate referrals, i.e. people who face barriers to the workplace, have low confidence / self-esteem, and identify as needing additional support. Participation in the project will be voluntary and not subject to the Job Centre sanctions regime
  4. Ensuring women who are referred to the project continue to be supported by adopting a Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA). This is a holistic approach which intervenes to improve the conditions of those living in poverty – enabling the project worker to work with the referred women to look at the assets they have to draw upon and how they might overcome barriers to their livelihood and consequently improving life chances which may include taking up employment.
  5. Providing tailored one-to-one support to all referred women that will look at: evidencing their experiences of Job Centre support; identifying individual strengths and capabilities (assets); highlighting specific barriers to improving livelihoods; improving levels of self-confidence/esteem and documenting any positive changes they have been able to make in their lives.

Successes to date

Adopting a Sustainable Livelihoods approach to the delivery of this project has proved quite beneficial to date. It has been quite helpful to holistically look at women’s lives and focus first of all on their strengths. This has helped with self-esteem and confidence-building issues. The project has identified barriers to employment, training, etc., and is working with the women to agree ways of overcoming them. The initial assessment session has been quite lengthy and it has taken some time to gain trust and elicit the strengths and capabilities of the women referred to the project. All of the women who have been referred to the project have lacked confidence and have a range of issues that require some time to listen to before any assessment can be carried out. Gaining the trust of these women has been paramount with regards to effecting some changes and moving the women on from the positions they see themselves in. Some of the outcomes to date include:

  • 14 women have been referred to the project.
  • A relationship has developed with the Service Navigator and referrals have been made via this route.
  • A relationship has developed with Stockton Job Centre and referrals regularly coming through.
  • One woman, who was lacking confidence and very rarely leaves the house, now gets dressed and goes shopping with her daughter.
  • One woman is now looking to sort out some of her debt problems and has made an appointment with the CAB.
  • One woman has identified and acknowledged a range of skills she has, and is starting to look at specific training courses she may wish to attend.
  • One woman is actively searching the internet for all free courses in her area.
  • Two women referred have now secured volunteer positions.
  • One woman has accessed a local support group and is growing in confidence and self-esteem.
  • All of the supported women are beginning to acknowledge their strengths and capabilities and thinking about their futures.

Plans for the future

  • We aim for this approach to be adopted by Job Centre plus and work programme providers in the Stockton locality. The project will raise awareness of the value of adopting a Sustainable Livelihoods Approach with their clients and offer training and support sessions from the project officer.
  • The project worker will continue to work one-to-one with women referred to the project.
  • Relationships / partnerships will be further developed with other agencies who offer support to women around employability, training, empowerment, etc.
  • We will work with Thrive on a volunteer recruitment programme with a variety of volunteering roles defined, and recruit Thrive volunteers to the project.

For further information about this project, please contact or call 01642 769570

Church Action On Poverty, Unit 28 Sandpiper Court, Water’s Edge Business Park, Modwen Road, Salford M5 3EZ

Telephone 0161 872 9294 or email

Registered charity number 1079986. Company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales, number 3780243.

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